Criminal defense lawyer Nanci Clarence had just pulled on her wetsuit for a day of surfing at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach on March 4 when the lead prosecutor in the Reliant Energy Services Inc. market-manipulation case called to say the settlement was on the rocks.

In 2004, Houston’s Reliant Energy became the only corporation criminally charged with fraud and market manipulation in the aftermath of the California energy crisis of 2000. The indictment of the company and four of its traders became the biggest white-collar case in the San Francisco U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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